At least 300 Sudanese asylum seekers have been arrested by the Niger Police after accusing them of burning down a UN refugee camp in the north of the country, prosecutors said on Monday.
The Niger town of Agadez has become a major transit point for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa trying to reach Europe and for those escaping chaos in neighbouring Libya.
Agadez prosecutor Seyni Saidou told state television 335 asylum seekers had been arrested on Saturday after they were identified as taking part in burning their camp.
City officials said “incidents” erupted after security forces dislodged hundreds of asylum seekers from the local offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), where they were holding a sit-in to demand refugee status and placement in Europe.
“Once they were brought back in buses, they first set fire to the camp” before attacking security forces who escorted them, one official said.
According to a report by local authorities, 290 homes and the infirmary were burned down.
At least two people were injured by the demonstrators, who “broke bus windows”.
Charges include unarmed assembly on a public highway, rebellion by deliberate destruction of property and arson, prosecutors said.
Some 1,400 Sudanese who fled insecurity and slavery in Libya since 2017 live around the camp about 10 km from Agadez. Since 2018, the Sudanese have been demonstrating regularly in Niamey and Agadez for quicker settlement in host countries, especially in Europe.
Hundreds of refugees, particularly Ethiopians and Eritreans living in Niamey, have been resettled in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Finland.